SA SHA hidari (left)

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Character Etymology:

At the top, the radical representing the left hand. Below that, the radical representing, "to work upon." Rather like the right hand (see: KANJI: 700 YUU U migi), the left hand also symbolized support, but with connotations of reserve or auxiliary as opposed to the strength of the right. This, the original meaning of this character was something like, "to assist someone at work," which is still found in Chinese.

In Japanese, this early meaning was taken over by adding the radical for person (see: KANJI: 1 ICHI ITSU hito), giving assist; while this character came to mean only, "left hand," or, "the left."

A Listing of All On-Yomi and Kun-Yomi Readings:

on-yomi: SA SHA
kun-yomi: hidari

Nanori Readings:

Nanori: so

English Definitions:

  1. SA: left, the following.
  2. hidari: left; the left; leftist.
  3. hidari suru: turn to the left.

Unicode Encoded Version:

Unicode Encoded Compound Examples:

左回り (hidarimawa(ri)): counterclockwise.
左手 (hidarite): left hand.
左派 (saha): leftist faction.

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In politics, left usually refers to the "radical" part of the political scene, i.e. the socialist parties. The difference in modern politics is first of all an economical question, the left side usually wanting a more centralized economy with a strong state.

It is perhaps difficult to describe which direction is meant when one says "left" when describing said direction in a text medium. If you say "it's to the left," that's not very helpful; which way is that? If you say "it's not the hand you write with," that's not helpful either; what if you're left-handed?

If your anatomy matches that of most of the human population (more importantly, if you have both hands; this is all just conjecture) you can discern which way is left through the following simple steps:

  1. Hold out both hands in front of you, with their backs facing you.
  2. Bend all of your fingers except your thumb (if you even consider it a finger) and forefinger. Hold these two fingers at a right angle to one another, and have the thumbs on each hand point to one another.
  3. Now, which hand is making an "L," and which is making a backwards "L"? L is for Left; the hand that makes the "L" is the left hand.

"Great," you're thinking, "but what if I loose a hand? I'll never know which way is left again!" Au contraire! The same trick can be done with your arms! Just hold your arms such that your forearm and upper-arm are at a right angle. L is for left still!

"And if I lose my arms?" you ask.

No comment.

ameriwire says re left: ha; you could describe it in terms of which side your heart is on

you said "re re left: Ah, but what of those with situs inversus? They couldn't rely on that." to ameriwire (sent to 1 noder)

My mother left the first time in late spring of that same year.

We stood on the front steps, my older sister holding my one-year-old brother, my little sister beside me. Then my father, my anchor, tears streaming down his face.

All the land spread out before me, all my previous escape routes, and I could not now run away. There was no safe haven from the reality of her leaving.

The metal links of the swings in front of their bedroom windows, beneath my favorite tree, clinking. The tree, crawling with ants, along the soft bark. The ribbed edges of the leaves. The leaves new and soft on the branches. And beyond that, the rows of old Jonathan trees, the buds just gone. The trees old and twisted; though my father pruned them, they grew along their own curves. Down the hill in the front lawn to the large trees beside Star Route, with their fingery twigs, and in the autumn, brown dirt-smelling leaves in piles. Farther than we were allowed to go, our property sloping onto the road below.

Beyond the highway, other orchards, newly blossomless. The irrigation pond we couldn’t wade in, the fig tree with its roots in the water. The lush pasture, sparsely cowed. The Navarro River wide and bridgeless, cutting through the farm. Acres of trees and dirt and seeds and tomato seedlings in fish emulsion across the river from us. The grove crowded with old-growth redwoods. The state woods beyond.

The sun was already disappearing behind the ridge. The air was beginning to cool. The hot smells of dry grass and of the redwood steps, the cooling air, the angle of the sun, the empty expanse of sky, suddenly sharpened.

My mother reversed our red station wagon, eased down the driveway, and turned east.

We stood still, exposed, framed by the living room window, its drawn curtains baring the house to the street outside. It was the first time I’d seen my father cry, and I wanted to put my arms around him. I remained frozen instead, beside my sisters and brother, gazing at the stretch of road where she had just been.

from The Book of Revelation

previous chapter - next chapter

Left (left), imp. & p. p.

of Leave.


© Webster 1913

Left, a. [OE. left, lift, luft; akin to Fries. leeft, OD. lucht, luft; cf. AS. left (equiv. to L. inanis), lyftAdl palsy; or cf. AS. lEf weak.]

Of or pertaining to that side of the body in man on which the muscular action of the limbs is usually weaker than on the other side; -- opposed to right, when used in reference to a part of the body; as, the left hand, or arm; the left ear. Also said of the corresponding side of the lower animals.

Left bank of a river, that which is on the left hand of a person whose face is turned downstream. --
Left bower. See under 2d Bower. --
Left center, the members whose sympathies are, in the main, with the members of the Left, but who do not favor extreme courses, and on occasions vote with the government. They sit between the Center and the extreme Left. --
Over the left shoulder, or Over the left, an old but still current colloquialism, or slang expression, used as an aside to indicate insincerity, negation, or disbelief; as, he said it, and it is true, -- over the left.


© Webster 1913

Left, n.


That part of surrounding space toward which the left side of one's body is turned; as, the house is on the left when you face North.

Put that rose a little more to the left.
Ld. Lytton.


Those members of a legislative assembly (as in France) who are in the opposition; the advanced republicans and extreme radicals. They have their seats at the left-hand side of the presiding officer. See Center, and Right.


© Webster 1913

Left, a.

Situated so that the left side of the body is toward it; as, the left side of a deliberative meeting is that to the left of the presiding officer; the left wing of an army is that to the left of the center to one facing an enemy.


© Webster 1913

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